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Stone Town Maze

The ancients of the Sultan

Day 27, 23 February
Stone Town

After another leisurely wake up and breaky at the coral rock we headed off on our transfer to Stone Town. It was an uneventful drive until we hit the main street of what I think is called New Town. There were people everywhere selling all kinds off things. It resembled a south east asian market with lots of weird smells and it was pretty chaotic (even just from the car!).

The driver found the hotel suggested by those at Coral Rock and after a quick room inspection we unloaded our bags, asked the reception the usual queries re banks, shopping, food etc and headed in the direction of the ferry terminal to find tickets. There are a lot of what locals call papassi – which are pretty much ticket touts that find tourists to buy tickets for and either get tips from the tourists and /or a commission from the agent. We ended up with a bit of an entourage as we made our way to the office and C warded them off while I negotiated two ferry tickets for the next day.

It was extremely hot, but we decided to do the touristy thing and explore a bit of the maze of stone town. It is very geared for tourists – with pretty much the same wooden trinkets and paintings in each shop that we’ve seen across most of Tanzania. We even spotted more of the special wooden salt and pepper holder turtle that we had gotten from Coral Rock because we thought it was unique to there…. Oh, well.

We walked around most of the afternoon looking at various shops – escaping very convincing sales men. We also booked a spice tour for the next morning and had some lunch. At one point I made C follow some strange guy who was promising a great spice shop – but really he just led us into the middle of the main local market where we got bombarded with more weird smells, people, rubbish. We rely on the line ‘the Australian govt doesn’t allow us to take that stuff home because of the quarantine’…. Which they don’t really understand but it seems to work.

After a nice ice coffee to quell C’s nerves (after the hubbub of the market), we walked around in circles till we found some Persian baths which we then decided not to pay the $1 to go in and have a look (they’re no longer used).
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We then went in search of a jewelry shop that we’d seen advertised in the inflight mag – with the promise of something Tanzanite for me. We found it, and spent an hour or so choosing some stones to be made into earrings – (C always said that I can buy anything I like, I just have to carry it ). Tanzania is the only place you can get Tanzanite from. I wonder how many other countries have similar exclusive precious stones….

After a few beers (again to quell C’s nerves after the jewelry shopping) we showered and changed and headed out toward some restaurants. Instead we found the night market which is a set up of all of these tables where the locals cook all of the seafood that they’d ‘caught’ that day – yep effectively street meat. But of course they wear big chef hats and claim that theirs is fresher than the next table (no gloves, or any other form of hygiene though). Now, when the one thing a hotel receptionist says is, ‘stone town is 99.9% safe from crime, but I suggest you don’t eat at the night market because it will make you sick”, what do you think we’d do…… we ate at the night market. In retrospect it was something we had to do and we actually haven’t been sick!
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After a bit of a stroll along the waterfront we headed back to the room and fell asleep to the sounds of the streets below.

Day 28, 24 February 2011
Day two in stone town was supposed to be fairly casual….. we had breaky and waited out the front of the hotel for our spice tour pick up at 9:00 – which I think arrived at 9:15 but we then drove around to a few other hotels to pick up people. When C and I confirmed about the timing of the tour finishing (we’d been told that we’d be done and back in stone town by 1-1;30pm) they said about 3….. after a few terse words we were again assured that we’d be dropped back by 1-1:30. It’s funny how easily you place your well being in the hands of strangers – before we knew it we were off into the bush – ending up on a dirt road in the middle of no where. But we were dropped off at the spice farm and given a fairly good run down of the various spices and fruits that they grow in Zanzibar. Nothing is actually native- but introduced by the numerous inhabitants over the past 100s of years. We tasted cardamom seeds, drank coconut milk, tried on natural ‘lipstick’ and were treated to banana leaf rings and bracelets by the locals. After further info about pepper, oils and the requisite shop at the end we were taken to a local village for lunch which was simple but tasty.
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After lunch as we were heading back toward stone town we were told by our guide that, as there was only one bus and C and I were the only ones to go to stone town, we would have to get out and get a public bus back into town – but not to worry, they would pay for it…… there is a point at which sometimes you wish that you were more assertive, more demanding, or just more bloody minded as after some consternation we got out of the van and found ourselves on the side of a road waiting for a public bus. It took the guide a few goes to find a mini van that would take two stupid tourists – but eventually we loaded into a van that was full of locals- and proceeded to stop every 100m all the way to town. Nevertheless we made it back to our hotel, a bit more bleary eyed but a lot more the wiser.

We found our jeweler friend and picked up the beautiful tanzanite earrings and were then driven to the boat by his driver. After a hot and steamy wait we squashed our way onto the boat – had out bags put onto the front of the boat and then made our way up to our seats. We watched the Italian Job with dodgy subtitles and I tried to ignore the lurching of the boat as much as I could.
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When we arrived in Dar Es Salaam we were hustled into a taxi with two south African Girls who we had befriended on the boat – and negotiated a good deal to be taken to a hotel then picked up and taken to the airport. We’re now sitting waiting to be picked up and will have to wait until about 2:30am… the joys of traveling!

Our taxi driver was waiting for us at the hotel and took us to the airport at about 11:30pm. They don’t let you into the airport until close to your check in so stopping at the hotel was a good idea. After checking in we ambled around the airport looking at duty free and touristy stuff and snoozed until the flight.

Posted by ourlife 12:57

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